“Down with the vampyre!—seize him—hold him—burn him! he must be down presently, he can’t stand!”
This gave them new hopes, and rendered Varney’s fate almost certain. They renewed their exertions to overtake him, while he exerted himself anew, and with surprising agility, considering how he had been employed for more than two hours.
There were some trees and hedges now that opposed the progress of both parties. The height of Sir Francis Varney gave him a great advantage, and, had he been fresh, he might have shown it to advantage in vaulting over the hedges and ditches, which he jumped when obliged, and walked through when he could.
Every now and then, the party in pursuit, who had been behind him some distance, now they gained on him; however, they kept, every now and then, losing sight of him among the trees and shrubs, and he made direct for a small wood, hoping that when there, he should to be able to conceal himself for some time, so as to throw his pursuers off the track.
They were well aware of this, for they increased their speed, and one or two swifter of foot than the others, got a-head of them and cried out aloud as they ran,—
“Keep up! keep up! he’s making for the wood.”
“He can’t stop there long; there are too many of us to beat that cover without finding our game. Push, lads, he’s our own now, as sure as we know he’s on a-head.”
They did push on, and came in full sight as they saw Sir Francis enter the wood, with what speed he could make; but he was almost spent. This was a cheering sight to them, and they were pretty certain he would not leave the wood in the state he was then—he must seek concealment.
However, they were mistaken, for Sir Francis Varney, as soon as he got into the wood, plunged into the thickest of it, and then paused to gain breath.
“So far safe,” he muttered; “but I have had a narrow escape; they are not yet done, though, and it will not be safe here long. I must away, and seek shelter and safety elsewhere, if I can;—curses on the hounds that run yelping over the fields!”
He heard the shouts of his pursuers, and prepared to quit the wood when he thought the first had entered it.
“They will remain here some time in beating about,” he muttered; “that is the only chance I have had since the pursuit; curse them! I say again. I may now get free; this delay must save my life, but nothing else will.”
He moved away, and, at a slow and lazy pace, left the wood, and then made his way across some fields, towards some cottages, that lay on the left.
The moon yet shone on the fields; he could hear the shouts of the mob, as various parties went through the wood from one covert to another, and yet unable to find him.
Then came a great shout upon his ears, as though they had found out he had left the wood. This caused him to redouble his speed, and, fearful lest he should be seen in the moonlight, he leaped over the first fence that he came to, with almost the last effort he could make, and then staggered in at an open door—through a passage—into a front parlour, and there fell, faint, and utterly spent and speechless, at the feet of Flora Bannerworth.